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Magical Customer Insights - The Often Overlooked Business Cure

There is a "magic" to this advertising/branding business.

And, despite what Mad Men may have taught you, it is usually not a "haphazard" or "lucky" magic.

This "magic" has to be mined. It requires work, and creative digging to get real insights.

Insights for organizations and brands such as "who are you really?," "what do you really stand for?," "why do you really exist?," and "for whom are you and your products the perfect solution?"

Usually, companies have multiple meetings "inside" their conference rooms to wrestle with these critical business issues.

I would suggest that most of the time the answers lie outside your company walls from customer insights which can lead to dramatic business results for clients.

A magical customer insight can bring clarity in a world of fog.

Take LEGO.

As the strategic brand expert Martin Lindstorm relayed in a recent LinkedIn post, LEGO was in a world of hurt during the years of 2003 - 2005. Business was down a whopping 30-40%.

The Danish toymaker thought they had seen the writing on the wall at the end of the last century. LEGO had busily repositioned the company more in line with emerging demands of today's youth - digital, highly engaging, high-touch and engrossing experiences.

That's where all the "surface research" took the company. Digital games. Theme parks. Clothing.

The "research" and "trends" took LEGO there - almost to it's death.

Then, LEGO turned their business thinking around.

Based on?... A visit to an 11 year old boy in a town in Germany.

One of the "tricks" in a smart strategic agency's tool box is called "ethnographies". This is where an agency strategic researcher actually goes and spends time "living with" the average daily life of customers and looking for clues and insights into "why" customers do what they do. Just by observing everyday life.

Martin describes amazing insights for LEGO that came from this ethinography with this normal, typical boy:

The 11 year old boy was a passionate skateboarder. Asked at one point which of his possessions he was the most proud of, he pointed to a pair of beat-up Adidas sneakers with ridges and nooks along one side. Those sneakers were his signaled to him, his friends and to the rest of the world that he was one of the best skateboarders in the city.

Voila! The insight! This strategic, insightful researcher then saw something in this boy's actions that trumped all the "surface research" that had previously been compiled for LEGO.

Despite all indications that "instant gratification" and "quick solutions" for this short attention span target are what all products for digital natives must posses, these "actions" were saying something different.

The insight?....

If kids find a skill that they find valuable, they will stick with it until they get it matter how long it takes. It was doing the work and having something tangible in the end to show for all your work that was incredibly important to this target group.

Sudden clarity.

LEGO - what do we stand for? why do we exist? for whom are we the perfect solution?

LEGO refocused on its core product. (At Big River we always say: BE who you ARE.)

To tailor to this seemingly "quick success" customer and follow the "surface research", LEGO in the early 2000s had made their product easier to build.

Now, with this insight from the 11 year old boy, they went back to their original, more challenging size. They made the construction challenges more difficult - not less. They made the instruction manuals more exacting, more intricate.

Flash forward to the first half of 2014, LEGO sales are up 11% and exceeding $2 billion. As Lindstrom relates, "for the first time ever, LEGO had surpassed Mattel to become the world's largest toy maker."

All from a kid and his worn out shoe. Magic.


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